Digital Humanities Marathon: Digital Intimacy

Researching hook-up app cultures

Professor Kath Albury, Swinburne University of Technology

Dating and hook-up app users need to establish intimacy, trust and mutual desire with each other before they can ‘match’ or meet up in person. This process is usually achieved by text-based communication and image-sharing within the app itself. Consequently, apps such as Tinder or Scruff are repositories of highly sensitive personal data - ranging from geolocative information and mundane details of everyday routines, to explicit sexual fantasies and intimate photographs, and disclosures of STI and HIV status. This presentation presents an overview of ongoing collaborative research in the field of ‘hook-up app studies’. It builds on prior investigations of young people’s practices of digital intimacy to outline an emerging research agenda for social science and humanities-based investigations of mediated sexual cultures, with the aim of informing policies, pedagogies and practices in the fields of sexual health and safety, digital literacy and data security.

Kath Albury is a Professor of Media and Communication at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. Her current research focuses on young people’s practices of digital self-representation, and the role of user-generated media (including social networking platforms) in formal and informal sexual learning. Kath leads the Australian Research Council Linkage Project ‘Safety, risk and wellbeing on digital dating apps’, with industry partners ACON Health (formerly the AIDS Council of NSW) and Family Planning NSW.

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Image: 'Squirting Emoji', Alice Wood, Flickr